The neighborhood that the Harlen's lived in was brand new. Many of the houses on the block had not even been completely built yet. Dean and Bobby had the luck of finding a vacant house that was still under construction across the street and a few lots down from the Harlen's address.
At least the skeleton of a house had an enclosed garage. Dean realized that the old Impala, though stunning as she was, stuck out like a sore thumb and could easily blow their cover. He was glad to have a place to hide the car; its invisibility from the outside provided brief peace of mind as he and Bobby waited in the dark house.
The two hunters waited patiently. Or at least as patiently as could be expected when awaiting the arrival of who-or what-ever had taken over the Yellow-Eyed-Demon's despicable job. The duo had arrived a few hours earlier from South Dakota.
After Bobby took the man whom he and Dean had exorcised a demon from to the hospital, Dean had stayed behind and looked up all information he could on what the demon had told him before it was expelled from the innocent man's body. Dean had found sufficient information to indicate that the YED's protégé would in fact be striking again that very night. Dean had called Bobby and ordered him to return as soon as possible. Dean had gathered a bag full of weapons in the mean-time and they set off to Minnesota as soon as Bobby got back. Dean, naturally, driving and pushing the Impala's engine to the max for most of the trip.
The watch on Dean's left wrist now read a little before eight P.M. Dean's heart rate beat at a steady pace inside his chest; all of the previous attacks had taken place a little after eight and Dean expected their "friend" to show itself any moment now. He and Bobby kept close watch on the house across the street from the corner window of their current hideout. Dean's trusty EMF meter sat on the window sill right next to him, remaining perfectly quiet for the time-being.
"I don't like this. Wish we had a better plan." Bobby grumbled as he looked out the window.
"We have a plan?" Dean smiled playfully and snapped shut the barrel of the shotgun he was examining.
They didn't really have a plan. Not a good one anyway. Get in the house, save the family, stall the thing that was starting the YED's work up again and temporarily incapacitate it long enough to restrain it. They then planned to interrogate it as to what the plans of the demon-army were and above all the whereabouts of Sam. Dean and Bobby were both skeptical on the success of the whole plan, but they had little else to work with to formulate a better one.
Dean had collected a wide array of weapons that might prove useful. Shotguns filled with wrought-iron rounds, holy water, over a dozen readied exorcisms, his hunting knife, and The Colt. A little over three months ago, Sam had had the brief hope that maybe if more bullets were made to fit the antique weapon, it may work again to its full ability. Dean had thought this to be absurd and most likely just a bringer of false hope, but when he saw the old gun in the trunk of the Impala, he felt compelled to take it. If it did work, then that meant killing the thing tonight and possibly finding out where Sam was. At the time, Dean was more than willing to give it a shot...literally.
"So when this all goes down, you get the family out of the house and I'll stall the...whatever." Dean reminded Bobby of each their jobs as he put all the weapons back in the duffle bag.
"How sure are you that you will be able to stall this thing anyway?" Bobby looked over at Dean.
Dean shrugged. "You can stall anything, Bobby. It's killing it that's gonna be a problem."
Bobby sighed, clearly uneasy with the situation.
"Anyway, our main concern for now is just getting the family to safety." Dean added, repositioning himself more comfortably by the window.
"I suppose you are, as usual, not thinking about your own safety?"
Dean didn't look at Bobby, but kept his eyes on the glow emanating from the windows of the house across and down the street.
"I'm thinking about helping this family and finding Sam, Bobby." He said after a moment.
Bobby gave him a frustrated look. "Your life is just as important at theirs, Dean."
Dean chuckled. "Yeah thanks, Oprah."
Bobby shook his head and he sighed. "You're a real smartass." He mumbled.
Dean smiled, not helping but note that if it were he and Sam having this discussion, now would be the time they would exchange their signature, single-worded responses.
Something out of the corner of Dean's eyes caught his attention. Dean looked out the window and down the street opposite from the house they were watching over. Each of the lamp lights illuminating the street began to flicker. One after another they would act as if someone were turning their power on and off again rapidly. The EMF meter hummed to life, beeping wildly and flashing its tiny, red lights in warning.
Dean and Bobby looked at each other. Wind scraped tree branches against the side of the unfinished house and sent leaves all aquiver as the two hunters leapt into action. They ran out the door and across the street to the Harlen's house, whose lights were now acting just as strangely as the ones out on the street. They got to the door and Dean kicked his boot against it, throwing it open and half way off its hinges.
A woman in the kitchen screamed, calling her husband to the room. Dean ran straight up the stairs, taking them two at a time. He was able to discern from the commotion Bobby's voice telling the couple the he and Dean were the police and their family was in danger. Dean pushed off the wall opposite the top of the stairs to prevent himself from colliding with it and ran down the hall. His eyes fell on the form of a small child standing in her bedroom doorway, clutching a teddy bear in her tiny arms.
Dean recalled himself at the age of four again, standing scared in the hallway of his house back in Lawrence. He stopped short in front of the young girl and quickly knelt down before her.
"Run downstairs and go outside by your parents, ok?" Dean gently urged her towards the stairs by her shoulders and the girl took off down the hall after looking over the strange man who was in her house. Dean pulled a shotgun from the duffle bag and jumped to his feet. He hurried down the hall until he came to the room that served as a nursery.
A tall man was standing next to the crib with his back to Dean.
"Hey!" Dean called gruffly as he held the gun out arm's length, aiming it at the man. The man looked up but kept his back turned.
"I was wondering when you'd show up."
Dean felt as if ice water had replaced the blood in his veins and his aim faltered a little as he recognized the painfully familiar voice. Sam turned his head to look at Dean, a smile dimpling his normally soft features.
"Sam, what're you doing?" Dean spoke as calmly as he could, but his heart was slamming so hard against his ribs that he could have sworn that Sam would be able to hear it. His mind raced desperately in attempts to try and figure out what to do next.
Sam turned his head and looked back down at the baby in the crib.
"I'll be with you in a minute, Dean." Sam lifted his wrist; a small cut on it threatened to drip infected blood onto the unknowing infant.
"What're you doing?!" Dean's voice was loud this time and he dropped the bag and gun in his hands to the floor. He ran at Sam and tackled him to the floor as he heard someone enter the room behind him.
"Bobby, get the baby outside." Dean struggled to pin Sam as Bobby gently scooped up the now crying child from its crib and fled the room. Dean looked back down at Sam who was now laughing unpleasantly.
"Sam, you can beat this!" He fought with Sam's strong arms.
Sam cocked his head to the side, faux puzzlement scrunching his features.
"Who says I want to?" He pushed Dean off of himself, sending him to land heavily on the floor across the room. Dean pushed himself up on his palms and he reached into the bag he had landed by. Waiting impatiently for the air to flow back to his lungs, Dean located a flask of holy water. He unscrewed the top as he got to his feet and turned to Sam, flinging the water on him. Sam looked down as the water hit his chest. He looked up at Dean and smirked.
"Oops, doesn't look like that works."
Dean's eyes widened at the affect, or lack there of, that the holy water had on Sam. Sam eyed the guns and knives visible in the duffle bag. He gave Dean an incredulous look.
"What'd you expect to do with those?"
Dean put his hand up, completely out of ideas. "This isn't you, Sammy."
Sam's smirk turned down into a hateful frown. "I really hate it when you call me that!" He reached out and grabbed Dean by the throat, slowly lifting his feet away from the floor. Dean choked and grasped at Sam's arm.
"Oh, I'm going to enjoy this." Purred Sam. He tightened his grip a little. Dean felt his trachea make an unpleasant sound and he gasped for air.
Sam clenched his teeth. "For every time you told me what to do. For every time you stopped me from doing what I wanted..."
He brought Dean's face closer to his. "...You're going to pay." He released Dean's throat, letting him fall to his hands and knees, gasping in much appreciated air. Sam bent down and took hold of Dean's collar, but Dean jumped up and planted a punch heartily on his nose. Sam stumbled back a few steps, holding his bleeding nose. He looked at the blood on his hand and rubbed the crimson substance between him fingers, sneering up at Dean.
"Nice right hook, bro."
Dean's lip twitched. His mind was clouded with torn feelings about the person standing in front of him.
"Come on, Sam. You're in there somewhere, I know it." Dean's voice was weak and breathy as he tried to coax the real Sam back into the open.
Sam wiggled his nose a bit and the drips of blood running from it retreated back up to their place of origin.
"That's better." His eyes flashed menacingly.
Sam stretched his arms out. "Fine, we'll do it your way. More fun for me." He brought his arms around into a fighter's stance.
Dean looked at him for a few moments, unmoving.
"Come on..." Sam's eyes narrowed tauntingly. "...Hit me."
Dean knew Sam's fighting skills were excellent as a regular person; he didn't want to find out what they would be like as a demon.
"I'm not gonna fight you, Sam."
Sam shrugged and walked forward. "Fine." He hit Dean square in the jaw, knocking him off balance. Dean recovered and returned the punch. Sam ducked just in time and threw a kick to Dean's abdomen. Dean buckled over but managed to grab Sam's arm and twist behind his back.
"Don't do this!"
Sam just growled and swung Dean around into a wall. He looked at Dean, laughing with sheer amusement.
"Looks like I get to kick your ass for a change." Sam threw another punch but Dean blocked it and brought his elbow down heavily on Sam's arm. There was a snap and Sam cried out through clenched teeth. He pulled away from Dean, cradling his broken right arm to his chest. He looked, seemingly fascinated, at the odd angle his lower arm bone had been bent into. Dean stood, breathing heavily and looking with disgust and slight regret at what he had done to Sam's arm. Sam took his right forearm in his left hand and jerked it up. A sick, snapping sound ensued and Sam shook his arm a little as invisible powers healed the broken bone. He grinned wickedly at Dean.
"Cool trick, huh?"
Dean glared at him angrily.
"You're fighting a losing battle, Dean. Not sure what you're trying to prove. I'm Sam, and there's nothing you can do to change that."
Dean nodded and set his jaw. "Watch me."
Sam frowned and jerked his head to the side. Dean was thrown up against the ceiling then dropped to the floor again. Sam walked over to him, making a clicking sound with his tongue and shaking his head. Dean rolled onto his back and he kicked Sam's legs out from underneath him. Sam fell and Dean jumped up, pinning Sam to the floor. He managed to land a few punches before Sam got free and threw a punch at Dean, sending him into the wall opposite. Sam smirked. He was done with this pointless fighting; it was time for him to end this once and for all. Sam picked himself up off the floor and reached to retrieve something from the small of his back, walking over to Dean. Sam reached down and took him by the collar with his left hand. He pulled Dean up to his feet and slammed him against the wall. Dean squeezed his eyes shut against the multiple points of pain aching all over his body. He unshielded his gaze after a moment and caught sight of what Sam held in his right hand, causing his eyes to widen.
Dean's plea was cut short by the pain of a seven inch knife being pierced straight through his stomach. He jolted forward a little against the blow, a small choke of an outcry escaping his lips. His eyes shown with sorrow, pain, and a great sense of failure as they stared at the evil, satisfied look on what was once his little brother's face. Dean took in a short, choking breath, blood spilling over his lips. Sam twisted the knife, teeth bared maliciously. Dean gasped and he fisted his hands on the collar of Sam's jacket.
"Please..." His voice was hardly above a whisper as his eyes searched Sam's. Dean's face twisted in pain and tears made themselves present in his eyes. Their green gaze pleaded and looked deep into the bluish green of Sam's.
The look of pure hatred remained on Sam's face as he gleefully watched the one true threat to him slowly fade away before his evil eyes. He pushed the knife a little more, fascinated by how much pain this man was willing to undergo.
Dean silently clenched his teeth and grimaced against the pain, forcing a fresh gush of blood from his mouth. He kept his gaze intently on Sam's eyes.
"Sammy?" The one word came out in a choked, barely audible plea.
Sam's smirk widened, but then his brow furrowed a little. An odd, forgotten sensation sparked to life somewhere inside him and slowly spread itself throughout his body. The man in front of him was in pain. Sam felt...he felt...sorry for him. He blinked once, a confused look showing on his face. It was his brother. His big brother, Dean, was in pain. Sam's features completely softened, his grip on the knife unconsciously loosening. He blinked and looked at Dean's familiar face with renewed eyes.
"D-Dean?" Sam's voice was filled with concern and confusion. Dean closed his eyes and let out a sigh of relief, mixed with a choke of pain.
Sam's heart rate quickened.
"Dean? What's wro-" Sam felt something in his hand. He slowly looked down at the knife buried up to its hilt in Dean's stomach, the handle clutched in his own hand. Sam let out a quiet sound of shock as he stared at his hand, lightly splattered with Dean's blood. He quickly withdrew his hand off the hilt, acting as if it had it had given him an electric shock. Pure terror enveloped Sam as he remembered that it had been him who had wielded the weapon and him who had caused the pain his brother was in right now.
"Oh God!..." Sam's voice trembled.
"Oh God, Dean!" He looked up at Dean's ever paling, blood covered face. Dean reached his shaking hand up and lightly touched the side of Sam's face.
"Sammy?" He said again quietly.
Sam's eyes filled with tears as he looked at Dean. "Oh God, what'd I do...What'd I do..." Sam looked down at the knife again.
"Listen, I'm gonna take care of this, ok? You'll be fine." Sam steadied Dean with his left hand and pulled the knife out with his right.
Dean clenched his teeth and groaned, starting to slide down the wall. Sam threw the knife down angrily and he caught Dean under his arms.
"I gotcha, I gotcha." He tried to sound soothing for Dean, but his voice trembled with rising panic. Sam lowered him to the floor and sat down himself, propping Dean's back up against his legs. Sam supported him by putting his arm around Dean's shoulders. Dean grunted a bit as Sam accidentally stressed his wound, but he kept his gaze fixed on Sam's face.
"Dean, hey. Ya with me?" Sam tried to smile at him, but couldn't as he dropped his eyes back to examine Dean's wound.
"God, Dean." Tears streamed down Sam's face as he applied pressure to the gaping hole in Dean's stomach.
"I'm sorry, Dean. Aw damnit! I'm so sorry. I'll stop this, I promise."
Dean gripped Sam's hand in his. Sam flinched a little, taken aback by how cold Dean's touch was against his skin. His brother's voice pulled Sam's attention away from the wound.
"Look at me."
Sam looked up.
"Don't you dare blame yourself for this...don't you dare." Dean shook his head weakly, but his face was determined and strong.
"Dean, I didn't mean to-I...I couldn't stop my-"
Dean nodded and interrupted Sam. "I know. It wasn't...wasn't you."
Sam let out a choked sob. He heard footsteps behind him in the hall.
"Dean!" Sam heard Bobby's call as he stopped short upon entering the room.
"Get help!" Sam looked back at him. Bobby took a few steps towards him.
"Go!" Sam yelled gruffly.
Bobby stumbled back out of the room and his running footsteps disappeared down the hall again. Sam looked back down at Dean and smiled, fisting the shoulder of his brother's old, leather jacket in his hand.
"See? You're gonna be fine. An ambulance will be here soon."
Dean smiled up at Sam, tears ran down his temples.
Sam smiled weakly and nodded. Dean closed his eyes and sighed softly.
"I've done my j-job then." Dean's face relaxed.
Sam's chin trembled and he frowned, shaking Dean violently.
"Dean? Dean! Don't you do this! Stay with me!"
Dean opened his eyes and he smiled.
Sam's tear-stained face dimpled into a smile.
"Must've learned it from my big brother." He squeezed Dean's hand, still attempting to stop the blood that was hopelessly leaking from the wound that both their hands were covering.
Dean grinned, a fresh stream of tears falling from his eyes.
"B-bitch..." He said in a low, harsh voice.
Tears rolled down Sam's face as he laughed. "Jerk." His voice cracked as he spoke softly, hardly above a whisper.
Dean's smile widened and he let out a deep sigh, his eyes sliding closed after a moment. His features softened and stilled completely after a moment, a trickle of blood sliding from the corner of his mouth.
Sam's eyes searched Dean's face frantically and he shook him a little.
"Dean?" He felt Dean's fingers loosen their grip from around his hand.
"Dean?" Sam's voice grew louder and he brought his hand away from Dean's to shake him by the collar.
"Dean!" Sam shouted as he grasped at Dean's jacket. His voice echoing back to him was the only sound he heard. The harsh moment of realization passed over Sam like a cloud blocking out the light from the sun. He looked down at his brother's peaceful face and let the grief overtake him completely.
Sam took in a shaky breath of air and he hugged Dean's limp form into his shoulder. He rested the side of his face against the top of Dean's head.
Sam sobbed out a long, broken cry of denial. He rocked gently back and forth as he gripped Dean's leather jacket in his hands, feeling as if he could not hold him close enough. Sam lost his sight completely to the distortion of tears and he just sat there, his only brother cradled in his arms...dead.
Sam cried harder than he ever had in his entire life. His mind tortured him with replays of all the time he and Dean had spent together, and all the time they would never be able to spend together now. He was tortured by the fact that he had been the one to inflict the killing blow, and how he himself had ended Dean's life; a life that had been completely devoted to the safety of his little brother.
Sam lost all concept of time. He had no idea how long he'd sat there, still desperately holding on to the one person he had left in the world. He didn't know how many times he called out his brother's name and begged him to come back to him. He didn't know how many tears he cried, Sam just sat there, not knowing or even caring about any of it. He was lost in a world of more sorrow and regret than someone could expect to feel in a thousand lifetimes. For the first time in his life, he was completely alone.
Dean Winchester's funeral was held three days later. Sadly the attendance was limited to Sam, Bobby and two workers who lowered the mahogany casket into the ground and buried it.
After the last of the dirt was back into place, Bobby left. He simply touched Sam's shoulder and left him to his thoughts.
Sam stood before Dean's grave, staring blankly at the slab of grey granite at the edge of it. The words "Older Brother To Sammy" stood out boldly and painfully to him. Sam took in a breath and he sniffed. He walked a few steps closer to the headstone and remained completely quiet for a good five minutes, just staring at the freshly laid dirt.
"I tried to make a deal." He confessed finally in a quiet voice, looking down at his shoes and nodding.
"But uh..." Sam chuckled.
"...She refused. She said you were out of her reach." Sam paused for a moment, collecting his thoughts.
"You'd be glad to hear that she sounded really pissed about that." He smiled, hopeful that he had the correct interpretation of the crossroad demon's meaning when she had said that she no longer had access to Dean.
Sam looked back up at his brother's name etched in the shiny, stone surface.
"I guess it was for the best though. You probably wouldn't have talked to me again if I had gone through with it anyway."
Sam laughed and licked his dry lips. He looked over at Dean's neighboring headstone.
"We buried you next to mom. Thought you'd appreciate that. Tell her I said 'Hi', ok? Dad too." Sam bit his lower lip and took in a shuddering breath.
"I miss you guys...you most of all, Dean." He shook his head and looked down.
"I miss you so much, man." Sam's chin shook and tears welled up in his eyes.
"And I'll come back and see ya from time to time, ok? I promise." Sam wiped at his eyes and he took a long look at his brother's head stone.
"Bye, Dean." He said quietly. He turned and walked slowly back to the gravel road where the Impala waited patiently for him; the setting sun reflecting blindingly off her shiny, black surface.
Sam got into the driver's seat and he sat for a moment, staring straight ahead at nothing in particular. He blinked finally and reached into his coat pocket. He pulled out his brother's necklace; the amulet on a plain, black string that Sam had never once seen Dean without.
He rubbed his thumb over the Egyptian charm thoughtfully as he held it in his hand. He draped it around the rear-view mirror and gazed at it, eyes following as it swung back and forth. The necklace seemed to hypnotize Sam, pulling him into a trance-like state for a few moments. He took in a deep breath finally and looked away, tears rolling down his face. He turned the keys in the ignition and the Impala rumbled to life. Sam ran his hands over the steering wheel and he nodded at his brother's necklace, still swaying slightly to and fro.
"We've got work to do." He said quietly.
Sam drove the old car along the gravel path and onto the pavement of the main road. He thought to himself as the Impala hummed along, wondering what Dean might say to him at that moment. About him making the decision to carry on. To continue saving people, hunting things; the family business. Sam smiled; he knew what Dean would say. His brother's voice was so clear and prominent in his mind that Sam could almost hear the words as they lingered, like echoes, in his memory.
"That's my boy."